Somerford Common: Wednesday, 25th January 2023

For once I was working solo at one of my sites and, with the current unavailability of the Firs, Ravensroost Wood is reserved for the volunteer group on a Wednesday in the autumn and winter, Webb’s Wood and Red Lodge ringed most recently, and forecast to be too windy for Blakehill or Brown’s Farms, I went to Somerford Common. I had topped up all of the on-site feeders at the Forestry England woodlands on Tuesday morning and, to prevent being inundated with birds, I just set the feeding station nets. As it had been pretty cold and icy for the previous two days, I decided to have the nets open for 8:30, to give the early birds time to get a feed in before I inconvenienced them.

I took the first birds out of the nets at 8:40. Surprisingly, there were no Blue Tits in the first round. There were three Chaffinch, of which two were able to be ringed, but the bulk were Great Tits and a couple of Coal Tits.

The second produced another three Chaffinch, but only one of those could be ringed. It is a long time since I have seen quite so much Fringilla papillomavirus in the Chaffinch population. That it seems to be making a comeback is very disappointing. That round also produced a new male Nuthatch.

Unusually for catches at this site recently, there were no Marsh Tits, either new or recaptures. Equally, there was no sign of Goldfinch, Lesser Redpoll or Siskin. The reduction in the finches certainly has coincided with my having moved the feeding station away from the birch trees after the brush in the quadrant they are in was cut back and mulched in winter 2021/22. As there has been some regrowth around the original feeding station site, I have moved the feeding station back to that position. It will have a double benefit: potentially more finches and it is much less further to walk!

With the catch falling away by 10:30, I shut the nets and took down, with a slightly disappointing catch: Great Spotted Woodpecker (1); Nuthatch 1; Blue Tit 6(3); Great Tit 5(5); Coal Tit 1(3); Chaffinch 3. Totals: 16 birds ringed from 5 species and 12 birds retrapped from 4 species, making 28 birds processed from 6 species.

Next week I plan to run a session on the western side of the site. This is where we caught the Buzzards a couple of years ago and where we had a reasonable catch of Siskin last winter. That area is primarily the commercial forestry operation and the avifauna is subsequently rather different.

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